by People’s Minister of Information JR Valrey, Oakland Bureau Chief
Bitwise Industries is a tech school and tech job placement program that has a headquarters in the West Oakland-Jack London Square area. I personally toured their operation, talked with a few people associated with Bitwise on the student side as well as the employee side, and I am excited about the learning and earning opportunities that are available if we, the Black community, take advantage of this situation.
A number of young people in the hood are gamers. They are definitely some of the first people who should be made aware of this opportunity. College is not for everyone. Bitwise Industries can give people – in a matter of weeks, not years – the fundamental skills that are needed to function in the tech world, which is economically taking over Northern California. Bitwise Industries is concentrating on helping to develop tech talent from underserved communities like the inner city Black communities of the Bay, so make sure y’all tap in and pull up.
I highly encourage people who are at a crossroads in life to look into the classes and programs that Bitwise Industries offers to see if they are right for you. Check out Bitwise Vice President Kennan Scott as he talks about what is being offered.
JR Valrey: Who started Bitwise Industries? Where were they located? And what was the original mission? What inspired the name?
Kennan Scott: Bitwise Industries was founded in 2013 in Fresno, California, by Irma Olguin Jr. and Jake Soberal who experienced the transformative power of tech in their own lives. They wanted to leverage what had impacted their stories to create positive change for those who never saw tech as an option.
Bitwise Industries is a for-profit, mission driven company delivering Salesforce managed services, Docusign and custom SaaS solutions while developing the most representative tech talent in the country at scale. Bitwise partners with organizations across sectors to create innovative solutions globally and regionally, delivering clear business benefits such as cutting costs, increasing productivity and revenue.
These partnerships fuel the connections between people and opportunity and set them on a path toward upward mobility. The resulting economic transformation is impactful for the people and communities Bitwise serves. Centering its work in the heart of the city’s downtown, the company’s model has been shown to quickly become an economic driver for the area.
JR Valrey: When did Bitwise move to Oakland? And why did it move to Oakland vs. San Francisco or San Jose?
Kennan Scott: Bitwise undertakes an exhaustive vetting process that assesses the city and whether our model would drive positive impact in the community. The company looks at the stage in which the technology industry exists, the level of support by local leaders with NGOs, non-profit, and government organizations and more. These play a factor as to whether a city is selected.
We also look for a confluence of efforts that indicate our model would have a positive impact, such as the local institutions, universities and colleges – all supporting growth in the area. Like many of our other cities, the technology industry could grow the local economy and provide opportunities for the people in the community.
In late 2019 we committed to expanding into Oakland and in 2020 we began setting up what would become the local expression of our operations right before the pandemic. Oakland has many communities of talented but overlooked people, and our mission is to create a more representative tech workforce by opening the door to high growth, high wage jobs for the underserved.
For Bitwise, it’s always been about how to put dollars back in the hands of those who have historically been shut out of the wealth of the tech industry.
Oakland has a rich culture and history, but the people have been shut out of opportunities in the space. Creating an access point to jobs in the high-wealth, high-growth tech industry will allow Oakland residents to stay in place and afford the ever-rising cost of living.
JR Valrey: Can you describe the kinds of classes that Bitwise Industries offers and the kind of jobs that each class prepares the graduates for?
Kennan Scott: Bitwise Industries has always assessed market needs to make sure that individuals are gaining in-demand tech skills that are setting them on a path toward quality jobs in the industry. What our programs have focused on has changed from time to time in order to provide them with the best footing for them to secure employment post engagement.
We are currently seeing an increased demand for Salesforce talent and plan to focus our efforts on those fields that offer high wage, high growth opportunities. For Bitwise, it’s always been about how to put dollars back in the hands of those who have historically been shut out of the wealth of the tech industry. We want to redistribute wealth to those that need it most.
We are currently wrapping up this round of courses that have included web design, mobile application development, react native and python, to name a few. After this round we plan to go full force toward Salesforce, where we believe we can leverage that market to be the most impactful in Oakland.
JR Valrey: How has the Oakland and Bay Area community so far responded to your online and in-person classes? Do you place graduates in apprenticeship programs?
Kennan Scott: The responses have been very positive. Our programs are meant to be additive to the work already being done in the community and we have made excellent partners in Oakland to help support our programs. We have had over 40 apprentices come out of Oakland.
JR Valrey: Who is your target audience? What are and have been the racial and economic backgrounds of your participants? What are their age ranges?
Kennan Scott: Bitwise Industries has sought to open doors and remove barriers to entry to those who are coming from poverty and/or stories of exclusion. This has included a range of people that included, but is not limited to, Black and Brown, Latinx, women, LGBTQIA+, veterans, formerly incarcerated and unhoused. All are welcome into Bitwise. We’ve worked with people the age of 7 all the way to those well into their 70s.
In Oakland we have had newcomer students and apprentices from Ethiopia, Mexico, Eritrea, Nigeria and Bhutan to name a few countries. We have served single moms, reintegrated citizens, laid-off workers and folks at the start of their careers
As we continue to focus our efforts on strategies and partnerships that can best help us reach underserved communities, we will continue to refine our efforts to produce the most impactful outcomes.
JR Valrey: How much are the classes, and are there scholarships and payment plans available for disadvantaged students?
Kennan Scott: Our founder’s lived experience really informs the way we operate. For so many, the roadblocks rarely have anything to do with the opportunities but rather the real challenges around a person’s life. We work to remove the barriers that stand in the way to success. This has often meant providing wraparound services such as childcare, transportation, financial assistance and/or healthcare.
As we look toward the future, we are developing closer relationships with local organizations whose partnerships will support the expansion, accessibility and acceleration of our work in the area. This will increase reach, quickly moving individuals into paid opportunities. We understand that everyone’s situation is different and encourage them to visit our website to learn more.
JR Valrey: Can you talk about how Bitwise utilizes its office space? Can you talk about some of the events that have happened at your Bitwise Industries headquarters? Is the space available to be rented out for events?
Kennan Scott: At its foundation, Bitwise Industries is about people. We create community and welcome those who have historically been unwelcome. We accomplish this by creating a culture of inclusion that extends from the way we interact with the person passing by to how we develop a workplace that is empowering for all. Our spaces are an extension of our efforts to be an inclusive environment creating vibrant buildings where those who seek the technology industry can find it.
Our buildings have first been occupied by our local team, then the remaining space has been leased out to mission-aligned companies and organizations as well as people looking for inexpensive coworking space. The cost of the space can vary depending on the size of the office. We would encourage individuals to reach out to us for more information.
Our Oakland office has hosted wine tastings, tea tastings, yoga and many other community events. We encourage any local organizations or people wanting to learn more about what is going on in our local Oakland building to contact our community engagement team of Kamran Williams, our community catalyst (cowork), and Nate Hancock-Harris, events coordinator.
JR Valrey: When does the new session of classes start? Where can people find that information online?
Kennan Scott: We are wrapping up our current session and will be working with our excellent local partners for upcoming opportunities. We encourage anyone interested to stay connected and visit our website for updates in early 2023.
JR Valrey: How can people keep informed about what is going on with Bitwise Industries?
Kennan Scott: We would encourage people to follow us on our social media and sign up for our newsletter, which can all be found on our website at www.bitwiseindustries.com or reach out directly to email@example.com.
JR Valrey, journalist, author, filmmaker and founder of Black New World Media, heads the SF Bay View’s Oakland Bureau and is founder of his latest project, the Ministry of Information Podcast. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Instagram.
This story was made possible by a grant from the California State Library’s #StopTheHate campaign to promote interracial dialogue and intervene in hate crimes, which have drastically increased against all communities of color, specifically Black people, since 2020. The Stop The Hate campaign is made possible with funding from CSL in partnership with the California Commission on Asian and Pacific Islander American Affairs (CAPIAA). The views expressed on this website and other materials produced by the SF Bay View do not necessarily reflect the official policies of the CSL, CAPIAA or the California government. Learn more at www.sfbayview.com/stopthehate or capiaa.ca.gov/stop-the-hate.